Gardening

How to make a tomato seedling: Planting tomatoes step by step

Today we will see how to make a homemade tomato seedling and I will show you the photos of the steps that we have followed to plant a tomato seedling .

Tomatoes are one of the “star vegetables”, plants that almost everyone would like to have in their urban garden or home garden. But  sowing tomatoes and being successful with the harvest is not an easy task, tomato plants require a lot of care and are demanding in nutrients.

When to sow tomatoes in the seedbed?

To begin with, it is important to make a tomato seedbed instead of sowing directly in the soil or final pot, in this way the small seeds will have a better chance of germinating and giving rise to good tomato seedlings .

The best time to plant tomatoes is in late winter or early spring (in Spain, from February to April).

To know exactly  when to plant tomatoes in seedbeds,  you have to first determine when will be the time of planting  or transferring the plants from the seedbed to the final field. That moment will be when temperatures begin to soften and the risk of frost ends in the area where you are going to grow. Once we know approximately the moment of planting, we will count backwards to know when to make the tomato seedling .

For example, we are going to make a homemade tomato seedbed and then we will plant those tomatoes in Ávila, in a town in the Sierra de Gredos. In that region the frosts can last until well into spring, so we will not risk the tomatoes freezing and we will plant them quite late, at the end of May ,  or even the beginning of June. Therefore, we will count two and a half months backwards approximately and the result is that, in our case, the best time to make a tomato seedling will be in the middle of March .

Materials to make a tomato seedbed

Next we will see the basic materials and tools that we need to make a homemade tomato seedling .

Tomato seeds

There are many types of tomatoes and therefore seeds of many different varieties . You can buy certified seed of your favorite tomatoes at a horticultural or gardening store (the typical seed packets), or you can use the seed of your own tomatoes , as we have done.

The first thing we did was soak the seeds for a few days. In this way we get them to hydrate and germination in the seedbeds is easier . As you can see in the photo, we put a handful of each type of seed in a glass with water and we left it for 3 or 4 days until the moment of sowing in seedbeds that I detail below.

Substrate or “soil”

In our case we use a commercial and ecological substrate that we buy in a gardening store as a «substrate for seedlings» , which contains worm castings to provide more nutrients. You can also create your own ideal substrate by mixing soil, compost, worm castings or other components of the substrate.

Containers for planting tomatoes

You can buy a container for the school or seedbed or also make homemade seedlings using  recycled materials   (yogurt cups or other desserts, a milk carton, egg cartons, polystyrene or plastic boxes …).

Any container that you can make a few holes in the bottom and that is at least 4-5 cm deep is valid for making a tomato seedling.

Some trays to place the seedlings

To collect the excess water and avoid staining anything at home, you will need some trays that serve as support for the tomato seedlings . These were the ones we chose:

A water spray

As we will see later in the steps to make a seedbed, it is necessary to water after planting . In order to moisten the soil but prevent the water from dragging the seeds to the bottom of the container, we will water with a spray or water spray. 

How to plant tomatoes step by step

Next we will see how to make tomato seedlings , how to take care of the plants during the first weeks of their growth and how to plant tomatoes.

1. Prepare tomato seedlings

Buy or make the containers for the seedlings . If they are recycled seedlings, such as yogurt cups or some kind of box, it is very important to make some holes in the bottom  so that the excess water can come out there. (The seedlings purchased usually come already provided with holes in the bottom of each alveolus or hole).

2. Fill the seedbeds or plants with the substrate

With the help of a spoon or any similar instrument, fill each of the alveoli of the seedbed or the recycled containers you have chosen.

Do not fill them completely, since then you will have to put the seeds and add more soil on top. Then place the seedling or seedling on the tray that you have prepared.

3. Sowing or introducing the seeds into the ground

With the help of a pen, stick, or similar, make a hole in the substrate about half a centimeter deep. In this hole we will place the seeds that, as we saw before, have been soaked for a few days to hydrate and germinate more easily.

To sow tomatoes at home , it is important to place two or three seeds in each of the cups or spaces of the seedbed, since not always 100% of the seeds germinate. Then we will fill the hole where the seeds are with a little soil so that they are covered.  

We will repeat the same operation in each alveolus until the complete tomato seedling has been sown .

Once the tomato seedbed is finished, it must be placed in a place protected from the cold (at about 15-20ºC) and where it can receive sunlight. (We have decided to place our tomato seedlings on a table under a window, where they receive sunlight throughout the afternoon).

 4. Water by spraying water with the help of a spray and wait for the seeds to germinate

As we saw before, during the period prior to the germination of the seeds (that is, before the first green shoots appear), it is very useful to water with a spray or water spray to prevent the seeds from sinking.

And… after a few days watering the tomato seedlings… Voilà !! The first tomato shoots or cotyledons will begin to appear ! They can take 5 or 6 days to even two weeks to appear, it depends on the humidity of the seed, its depth, the state of the soil …

A few weeks after sowing , this is what our tomato seedlings look like :

5. Irrigation and transplantation

Once the seedlings have germinated, water the seedlings with the help of a bottle or a small watering can (always avoiding wetting the leaves, as fungi could come out). Water the seedbed every two to three days, making sure that the soil always has some moisture or that there is water at the bottom of the tray.

Two or three months after planting the tomatoes in the seedbed, that is, in the middle or late spring, when there is no longer a risk of frost, the seedlings can be removed from the seedbeds and the tomatoes can be planted in the garden or in the pot where we will grow them.

If the seedbeds are very small (as is the case of the ones we made and which are seen on the right of the photo) or if the risk of frost forces us to delay the transplant or planting, it is advisable to do intermediate transplants , in a pot or a planter for example, where the roots have more room to develop and the plants grow better before being planted in the final place.

The last step is the transplantation or planting of the tomato plants to the final terrain; but that is another story… I leave you the link to a post by Álvaro about the transplantation of vegetables, in which you can find a video with the best tips to carry out a transplant step by step .

If you have already managed to make a homemade tomato seedbed and you want to know other tricks to get a good harvest of tomatoes, I recommend you read the post  Growing tomatoes in the garden step by step. How to plant and care for tomatoes , where you will find advice on watering, pruning and other cultivation tasks.

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